It was still cold.
The boy couldn't for the life of him remember, and he thought about it a lot, when last he'd been warm. The Old Man had brought him here, far into the Northern Mountains so long ago, he could remember no other place clearly, but there were flashes through his thoughts, of a sea not constantly frozen; of green growing things, not an endless landscape of snow and rock. Of trees, bananas, houses, whatever they might be, and the old man only grunted " Keep reading.." when he asked about them.
The young elf could in fact quote chapter and verse on the subject of trees, their types and uses, of where they might be found. Equally, for that matter on the subject of anything. He had absorbed the old man's knowledge like a sponge for seventeen years, wandering the North with only his Master for company. In all those years they had avoided contact with anyone, watching the few groups they had run across from a distance, behind cover. The young elf had watched, and listened to those they encountered, but he had never spoken a single word aloud to any other human, than the old man.
The times they had stopped their wanderings, he had been immersed in reading. These were the times the Master, as the old man was formally known, would take his leave for weeks at a time, and the young elf had been told that when one book was finished, there was always another to be found within one of their travelling bags, and there always was.
Not to say the youth was neglected, or even that he resented or feared the absences of his Master. Food was there, hot and ready when he was. There was only enough cleaning needed in their portable shelter to keep a sense of discipline active, and the fires never needed feeding. When he needed light, there was light, and when he wanted to feel the dark, it was there.
Foremost among the texts he felt compelled to read were those dealing with the Art, and prophesy, and others dealing with specialised areas of the occult. His time alone allowed him to experiment, with the freedom to make the inevitable mistakes, and the chance to find his own solutions.
Only once did he find himself somewhat over his head. He had attempted to control a Prince among the Demons, without all the proper preparations. His Master appeared through the door in time to change the Demon's plans for lunch, and spent the next several months learning why Demonology was not part of the Art.
He also learned the right way to do it.
It was perhaps sometime during the seventh or eighth of the warmer seasons they had spent in the same place, that the boy began to notice his Master around more and more. This extra time with the old man was spent in conversation. Hours and hours his Master would spend, telling tales of the Old Times, and instructing the young elf in the finer notions of the Art.
He told him the story of Daffyd, and again and again recounted how it had been, before the madness, before chaos reigned.
The boy had turned slowly, as all do, into a young elf. His final growth stopped well short of the normal Elf's, and his figure a tad too lean. But what stopped the old man in his tracks each time he saw it, was his smile.
It sent chills down the old man's spine. Always had.
Sandoz Roache, as the Master had named him, had a face that was not unpleasant to see, although his nose was somewhat large in proportion with the rest of his face, and it came to a decided point. Not adding much to it's beneficial effect on the overall was it being twisted slightly to one side, from a fall from a particularly high cliff during a fledgling attempt at levitation. It had been left that way as a reminder of sorts. His eyes were somewhat large, and perhaps too closely spaced; his teeth were perfect, but perhaps a tad too large for the face containing them all. But his mouth was the oddest component of this parody of a stereotypical Elfin face. It could, when the occasions demanded, stretch itself almost ear to ear.